Lincoln  Electric System

Lincoln Electric System journeyman lineman Fredrick Rumery (left) and crew leader Mitch Deisley watch as trenching begins at a construction site in northeast Lincoln in January 2016.

It looks to be a busy construction year for Lincoln Electric System.

The construction portion of the utility’s capital budget for this year adds up to $35.76 million, which is $5.28 million more work than happened last year, according to a budget overview.

LES expects to install 2,400 new meters this year and add a net of 1,500 new customers to its end-of-2016 total of 137,622.

The utility plans to install 370 distribution transformers — which step down the voltage so it doesn’t fry your toaster — and 81 miles of secondary and service conductor, the lines that connect neighborhoods to larger feeder cables.

Current customers will be getting some love too. LES says it will rewire 600 old meters and move 300 existing overhead residential services underground.

At the same time, LES will replace aging electron highways, including 44 miles of underground cable, 10 miles of which is distribution cable from the 1960s and 24 miles is feeder cable from the 1970s.

Plus, men and women in construction hats will be diligently working on major construction projects, including: a new transmission line and two substations, grading for LES’ planned new headquarters, and 63 miles of underground ducts that will house future electric lines.

LES says its new transmission line and substation work, dubbed the Southeast Reliability Project, will help meet increasing electric demands and improve reliability for Lincoln’s fastest-growing area.

The price tag will be $12.2 million for the transmission line and $4.7 million for work on two substations, a new one at 76th Street and Rokeby Road, and reconfiguring an existing one at 91st Street and Nebraska 2. A third $2.1 million substation will be built sometime in the future.

The utility is in the process of acquiring land, some of which may have to go through eminent domain proceedings, in anticipation of beginning construction on the transmission line this fall, with work getting done next year.

While LES is still finalizing plans for its new headquarters near 98th Street and Rokeby Road, grading at the site has begun so work on the first phase of construction can finish by 2019. A second phase will be finished by 2021.

LES previously said its new operations center would cost $73.5 million, but expects to update that figure sometime this year.

LES is in the sixth year of installing underground ducts that will one day make running electric lines much quicker and easier.

Workers will be able to install new lines by simply running them through these ducts, which is much easier than trying to bore through frozen ground in the middle of January, said Danny Pudenz, LES’s vice president of energy delivery.

LES expects to put in 63 miles of ducts this year, which will bring the amount installed to 263 miles. The utility expects to install a total of 510 miles, which will be finished by 2020 or 2021. The original cost estimate for the project was $30 million, but the final price tag is expected to be much lower, said Ron Kratzer, manager of system planning at LES.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7304 or nbergin@journalstar.com.

 On Twitter @ljsbergin.


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